Tuesday, April 16, 2013

All-Consuming Darkness

****I'm preaching to the choir here! So, when I say "you", know that I'm talking to myself as well. I include me in this!!!.****

When a tragic event occurs, it usually takes awhile for me to connect emotionally with the situation. It becomes all "business" for me. I watch the news and read articles about the event, trying to get information about what exactly happened. As I do that, I begin seeing pictures and videos of the people involved. That's when I begin to feel emotionally connected to the event. Suddenly there are faces connected to the reports. Suddenly it is more than information. These are real people with real emotions. Real people who are scared. Real people who are sad. Real people who are hurting. However, it usually takes two or three days before the emotions hit me.

So, when my husband called me at 2:30 PM today and told me of two bombs going off, resulting in the deaths of two people and the injuries of many more, I said all the right things and had all the right thoughts, but I felt no sadness or hurt or anger or anything else. It was as if he had told me we were out of milk. I felt nothing. I hung up with him and went back to bathing my children. In between Chase coming home from work and feeding my children dinner and washing sheets, I watched the news - as much as I could while trying to keep my 2 year old and 3 year old from seeing disturbing images or hearing scary things on TV. Eventually we turned the TV off so we could spend time with our children and not have to keep them "locked" away in their room.

After they went to bed, we didn't turn the TV back on. I had gotten as much information as I was going to get for the night, and Chase seemed distracted by other things. I hadn't yet emotionally connected with the event so I was casually scanning Facebook and Pinterest, feeling rather bored with the evening, ready to go to bed just for a change of pace, but not at all sleepy. Sitting on the couch in the silence of an evening without children climbing on us and talking to us and bringing us things to look at, Chase began telling me how he felt about the events of the day. Based on our conversation and some of the things he pointed out, I began to emotionally connect with all that took place this day. It has never happened this quickly with any event before, and it comes with a heavier heart than I usually experience.

I am grieving for those who lost loved ones today. I am sad for those who lost limbs because of shrapnel. I ache for those who are going through surgery and those who are laying in hospital beds in pain. I question God as to "why" this happened, though I know the only answer we'll probably ever know is that we live in a fallen, sinful world. I have anger toward Satan for deceiving someone into thinking this would be the answer to everything. And I have deep hurt for the person(s) responsible for everything that occurred today.

I'm going to chase a "rabbit trail" here, but, I promise, it has to do with everything I've just said! In nine days, on April 25th, is the 8th anniversary of the death of my father. He was depressed and committed suicide. Although he didn't leave a note or any indication of what exactly made him make that choice, in looking at the events in life at that time, depression is the only thing that fits. I remember the day and everything I felt just like it was yesterday. It will stay with me as long as I live. I remember the pain. I remember the hurt. I remember the gut-wrenching agony I felt with every fiber of my being. I remember arriving at his work (where he was found) and leaning against the back of his car as sobs wracked my body. I remember the anger and not knowing what to do with myself. I remember wanting to hit something or hurt something. I remember biting down on my blanket so hard my teeth hurt. I remember needing to try to direct the pain somewhere besides my heart. 8 years later, I still miss him, but that pain has dulled significantly. But that day . . . that day it was so real and hard. And yet, even with all of that, I never hurt bad enough to carry out an event like today or Newtown or Columbine or Oklahoma City or 9/11 or any of the other events that have taken place during my lifetime.

And so tonight I ache for the person who carried this out. With all the pain I felt 8 years ago, I cannot imagine hurting so bad or being so angry that I could be convinced to carry out a deed like this. Nobody knows who this person is or where they are. No one knows what this person is doing at this moment. I want to cry when I think of all the things they had to have endured to make them so hard-hearted toward the world. When I think of all the things they must have experienced in their lifetime to make them so angry and bitter and hurt toward others that they could carry out a senseless act of violence to hurt/kill so many, it makes my heart very burdened.

Then I think of the people around me. See, this person, whoever they are, was - before the bombs went off today - just another person like you and me. They lived and breathed and worked and existed right here. They had neighbors. They had a job. They had a car. They bought groceries. They stopped at the gas pump. They got their haircut. They went out to eat. Yes, I'm making some assumptions here, but you get the idea. They were just a regular person. What about the people around me? Is there someone I walk past at the grocery store that is hurting so bad they could pull off an event like this, thinking it would help them to feel better just to be able to redirect their pain elsewhere? Is there someone at the gas pump beside me that just needs an encouraging word to keep from hurting someone else? What about at the restaurant the next time I'm out to eat? At work? At school? The doctor's office? We come into contact with hurting people all the time. Are we willing to offer a smile to those we pass in the aisles of the grocery store just so they know someone has recognized their existence? We don't know who these hurting people are. Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to people?

Then I think of the little people in my own home. The person who did this today was a regular person like you and me. He had a family at some point. Whether it was a traditional family with a mom, dad, and siblings or it was non-traditional, made up of random people (I can't even begin to think of a scenario right now!), he had people that should have been a family to him. Was he hurt by them? What about a spouse? What about children? At midnight tonight, 3 of my 4 children were awake and crying. As I met the needs of each of them and felt their small hands on the back of my neck or their sweaty hair sticking to my cheek as I carried them to another room, my heart hurt for this person. I can't imagine my precious children hurting so bad or being so angry that they could carry out something like this. I pray that they never experience something so tragic in their lives that would make them want to cause others this kind of pain. I pray they never feel so separated from their family that they cannot come to us and receive comfort for their hurt and anger. I feel saddened that this person may have experienced something so traumatic as to separate him from family.

Lastly, I think of God. I have been angry at God. I have questioned God. I have been bitter towards God. I have ignored God. In all of that, I have never wondered whether God loved me. In all of that, I knew I could trust God, and when I finally got right, I always knew I was able to run back to His loving arms. I cannot imagine being so far from the love of God that something this tragic could seem like the answer instead of crawling to Him for love and protection and peace and help.

In spite of all I've suffered and all of the depression I have dealt with myself, I cannot imagine the darkness consuming this person night and day. I cannot imagine the hurt filling their heart, their soul, their entire being. When this person is found, instead of rejoicing over whatever sentence they are given, pray for them. Pray for them to find the love of God. Pray for them to find peace from and forgiveness in Christ. And notice those around you. Those who live in your home. Those who are in your circle of influence - relatives, friends, acquaintances, etc. Those you come across in the store, restaurant, etc. Notice people. Don't be of the world. But definitely be in it! We may not all have the "gift" of encouragement, but we can all be an encouragement just by offering a smile in passing.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


My precious Elizabeth Ann,

For the ?????? night in your short 3 1/2 years on this planet, I heard you wake up in your bedroom and begin crying. "Mommy! I need you! I need you!" I admit that before the sadness of your cries could reach my heart, the frustration of having a child who wakes up every night and ends up in my bed caused a weary sigh to escape my lips. I raced up the stairs fearful of having you wake one of your sleeping sisters, either Samantha in the next room or Jennifer who escaped her own bed and was snuggling closely to you, her big sister and her security.

I sat on the end of the bed for what felt like an eternity while waiting for you to fall back asleep knowing full well that you would and I would make my escape only to have you wake up, notice I was gone, and cry again. This scenario happens all night long, almost every night until I decide to go to bed myself and let you come snuggle under the security of my quilt.

You've been this way since the day I met you. From the day we brought you home from the hospital you have been scared of the dark. At some point in there you also began having bad dreams. Sometimes they make sense - dreaming someone was coming in and hurting me - other times they don't - dreaming of butterflies in the bathtub???? - and occasionally, like tonight, they are silly - dreaming of a silly monster laughing at you.

No matter what the dream, they wake you up after only a few hours of sleep. And when you're awake, you're in a constant state of insecurity. I hate this for you. I want your sleep to be peaceful every time you lay your head on your pillow. I want, if you wake up in the night, for you to be so secure that snuggle down into your own bed with stripes and your blankie as you drift back to sleep with your sweaty curls plastered to your forehead.

I haven't done a good job of helping that happen though. Today, I let you watch The Lion King - twice - and The Jungle Book. Although I already have standards for you, your siblings, and myself that others would think are strict, this isn't the first time I've been somewhat careless about what I allowed into that little mind of yours.

As I fixed a pallet on the floor for you in my room and got myself ready for bed, Mark 9:42 came to my mind. It says, "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."

I realized that, not only had I, by allowing you to watch certain things, caused you to be scared, I had also caused you and your sisters to sin. How? Glad you asked!! :-)

Philippians 4:8 says, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."

In putting those movies in front of y'all, I gave y'all things to think about that are quite opposite from what this verse tells us to think about. I was a stumbling block to y'all. Even if your brother and sisters don't struggle with the bad dreams like you do, I still have to be careful with what I allow. The Bible doesn't say that we should think on pure, lovely, true, admiral things only if we don't struggle with bad dreams. That is a command for everyone, regardless!

Elizabeth, Jennifer, Samantha, and CJ,

My precious children, God has entrusted me with you. I don't know why He felt I was worthy of such a blessing, but I'm so glad He saw fit. I love you all with every fiber of my being. You'll never understand the depth of my love for you until you are parents yourselves. Because of the great love I have for you and the even greater love I have for our God, as I climbed into bed tonight with Elizabeth on the floor beside me, I quietly repented and vowed to make sure that everything I put in front of y'all or myself follows the guidelines of Philippians 4:8.

There will be many people who don't understand our standards. There will be people who don't like them. There will be times you don't understand or like them. Please know now that these standards are meant for two purposes. 1.) To honor God with our lives and 2.) To help you live according to His Word until you are mature enough to do so on your own. They are meant to help you, not to hurt you. They are because I love you.

And I do. I love each of you and your unique, individual personalities. I love that I get to walk this journey with you and see where God's path takes you. Follow Him with your whole heart. Allow Him to lead you each and every step of the way. And no matter how silly the fear or how big the sin, always, always, always know that you can come to me in the middle of the night (or any other time of day) just as Elizabeth did tonight, and I will be there to point you to God and His truths just as I, tonight, pointed Elizabeth to Him and the fact that He is our protector. I love you my children and so does God. Don't ever doubt the truth of that!


Friday, April 12, 2013


I started writing this some time last week, but got distracted with the needs of my children, and I'm just now getting back to it. I know I've kind of strayed from my posts on Proverbs 31. The morning I started this, I opened my Bible to read the next verse in P31 so I could post about it (which I also already started when I was in the hospital after having CJ and was interrupted by nurses!!!), but instead, I felt drawn to the book of Ruth. I didn't get why at the time, but I can clearly see it now. What God showed me through Ruth directly coincides with the last post I wrote (see here). I love it when God does that!!! So, here we go . . .

In the book of Ruth, the young Ruth is the main character. She is the one the book is named after. She is the one we focus on when we read this story. Without her this story would never have taken place. Without her our Bible would go straight from Judges to 1 Samuel. Without her the verses our wedding vows stem from would not exist. She teaches us many lessons. She is a vital person. She must not be forgotten.

However, as important as she is, there are other characters in this story. Without some of these other people, her story would not be possible. Without some of these other people, her story would not be near as beautiful. Without some of these other people, her life would not have played out exactly the way it did. Each person in this story is a key player or God would not have included them in her story. She needed them in order to experience each detail of her life in the way she did.

One of these characters is the well-known Naomi, Ruth's mother-in-law. First, she moved many, many, many miles from everyone and everything she knew. She moved to a foreign land. I wonder if her heart held some bitterness over having to leave behind everything familiar to her. Then, she lost her husband when her sons were still young. The Bible doesn't say if they were kids, teenagers, or young men but it does make clear that they were not married. So she had some rough years. Can you imagine losing your husband and then not knowing how you're going to take care of your children? Can you imagine not knowing where the next meal will come from? Not only that, but she was in a foreign land. Granted, they had lived there quite a while so I'm sure she had friends, but her family was not around to give her support. She went through that alone. Bitterness slowly and quietly crept in. Then things began to look up!!

Her sons found wonderful women, fell in love, and got married! Love and life and laughter began to fill the dark places that once consumed her life. She didn't deal with the bitterness that had taken root in her heart. She simply put it out of her mind and went on celebrating with everyone over the wonderful things beginning to happen. Then, tragedy struck.

Not one, but BOTH of her sons died. The Bible doesn't specify whether this was one event or two separate occasions, but it doesn't matter. Unless we've been there, we cannot come close to imagining the gut-wrenching pain and the deep grief she experienced. That is a pain I hope to never know. She was truly all alone in the world. Darkness, once again, filled her mind, her day, her life. She had no husband to lean on for emotional support. She had no family to go to when she couldn't hold herself up under the grief. I can imagine her lying in her bed, overwhelmed with grief, blankets pulled up over her head, tears streaming down her face, sobs wracking her body. The bitterness that had come so long ago, once again, reared its ugly head and filled her heart. It began to consume her. She had suffered so much heartache in her years.

I imagine, as the days passed, she began to think of the grandchildren she would never have. I wonder if she pictured herself playing with grandchildren and dressing them and cuddling them, only to awaken from her daydreams to find tears on her face over those babies that would never exist. I wonder if she ever wanted to "curse God and die" (Job 2:9) as she pictured the years ahead of her with no family by her side. Did she ever wish her own life would just end? Maybe she even held some bitterness over the fact that God had not taken her life as well.

Finally, good news came! Her homeland was past the famine that had driven her to this foreign land and she could return home. I'm not sure what family or house she had plans to return to (the Bible doesn't clarify what "home" meant except that she went back to Judah), but she packed up her bags and said good-bye to this place that had been her home through many rough times. Her daughters-in-law packed up as well, determined to help their mothers-in-law through this season of her life. At some point during their journey, Naomi encouraged the girls to return to Moab and their families and move on with their lives. One of her daughters-in-law took her up on the offer. Even though she had encouraged it, I wonder if Naomi was slightly disappointed in Orpah for not standing by her side. I wonder if she nursed her wounds and some bitterness as well. I wonder if she watched in anger as Orpah took that trail back to Moab, knowing that she would never again see this precious daughter-in-law that her son had loved. I wonder if she felt like part of her heart was walking away from her. I wonder if she cried herself to sleep that night knowing that one more person had been taken away from her. I wonder if she completely turned herself away from God, scared to trust Him for fear of what He would allow to be taken next.

Her daughter-in-law, Ruth, decided to stay with her. I wonder if it was difficult for Ruth to stay, knowing that Naomi was becoming a bitter old woman. I wonder if Naomi let Ruth know how much it meant to her that she stayed or if she was so consumed with her heartache that she was a miserable companion for Ruth.

To me, the saddest part in the book of Ruth is chapter 1, verses 20-21 in which Naomi, upon returning to Judah, tells her friends "Don't call me Naomi . . . Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?"

As I read this first chapter of the book of Ruth and thought about all of Naomi's rough times, I was reminded of a man in the Bible who, on facing dire situations himself, responded quite differently than Naomi. Job's story takes place several books after Naomi's story in the Bible. However, in real life, it took place many years before. I wonder if Naomi, through her situations, recalled the stories she had been told of the man named Job and how he responded through his circumstances. I wonder if she felt guilty that she was so consumed with bitterness that she could not respond the same way he did.

Job lost everything he had. In one day he lost all 500 teams of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and all but one of his farmhands. Later that day, he lost all 7,000 sheep and all but one shepherd. That same day, he lost all 3,000 camels and all but one of his servants. Finally, again in the same day, he was told he lost all 7 sons and all 3 daughters and all but one person who was in the house with them. His words, upon hearing of all his loss, are recorded in Job 1:21 "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord.!" His response was quite different than that of Naomi. I'm sure he cried his share of tears. I'm sure he experienced the same gut-wrenching agony that Naomi and any other parent who's lost a child has experienced. However, he did not "grieve like people who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13b). He knew that even though life had suddenly become very difficult, God was still in control and "In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God." (Job 1:22)

In the second chapter of Job we read that God allowed Job's health to be taken from him - he was struck "with terrible boils from head to foot". Job 2:8 says, "Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes." To say his circumstances had become bleak would be quite an understatement! His wife could see this plainly. She too had lost everything, including all 10 children she had given birth to and her husband, her sole provider, was sitting in ashes, covered in boils. She had become bitter, quite like Naomi. Instead of being an encouragement to her husband, instead of being his helpmeet (as she was created to do), she told Job, "Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die." (Job 2:9) Job's response was one we would all do well to remember.

Job 2:10 says, "But Job replied, "You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" So in all this, Job said nothing wrong."

In the end, both Job and his wife and Naomi received blessing from the hand of God. Naomi saw her daughter-in-law married to the wonderful Boaz and they gave birth to a son, Obed, who was the grandfather of the famous King David. Job and his wife were blessed with 7 more sons and 3 more daughters along with 14, 000 sheep, 6, 000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys - twice as many animals as he had before!

Naomi and "Mrs. Job" responded quite differently that Job did. Their hearts were full of bitterness and anger towards God. Job's heart was filled with praise and honor and glory for the God who sees all, knows all, is in control of all. So, if they were all blessed in the end, what's it matter how they responded at the time of their bad circumstances?

Job 42:17 sums it up pretty well, "Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life."

Will we have lived a long, full life full of praise for the God who has every detail of life planned to perfection, or will our story end the way Naomi's did? There is no mention of her giving praise to God. In her story, "the women of the town said to Naomi, "Praise the Lord . . ."

Will our life end with praise to God or will it end with someone praising God for us????

Don't let bitterness take even a step into your heart. It's not worth it. I know. I've been there. I'm learning to be like Job. I used to be like Naomi (see link above). I want to be the one praising God. I want others praising Him with me, not for me!!!!! What about you?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I'm writing tonight with tears in my eyes and a heavy heart. It all started with a quick Facebook check before I laid my head on the soft pillow in my warm bed. I noticed that my sister had commented on a status update. The status caught my attention immediately in spite of the fact that I knew nothing about the family. It stated that their baby girl is no longer suffering from brain injuries. My first reaction was excitement for this family over the healing of their precious girl. My elation quickly turned to heart-wrenching sadness as I read the rest of the status telling of how she passed away at midnight and is now resting peacefully in the arms of her Creator. Interested in their story, I began reading the page they set up to keep people updated on the baby's condition. I learned that she was born on March 2, just one day after my own precious CJ came into the world. I read how the placenta ruptured causing issues, including her being without oxygen for 9 minutes. I saw pictures of the bedroom they had decorated for her and read about how they couldn't wait to bring her home to see it. I saw pictures of her mom holding her for the first time. I saw pictures of her dad coming to visit her after long days at work. I read positive status updates on her health and then negative updates as her health declined. I read about how they were having lunch together when they got the call to come say good bye to her. My heart hurts tremendously for this family. Maybe because I had my son in the NICU so recently, I began imagining how it would feel to be in their shoes, and it made me sick to my stomach. My first impulse was to gather all 4 of my kids in my arms and just hold them all night long. Before I gave into that urge, a wave of guilt washed over me.

Before I go into why I felt guilty, I need to clarify something so no one thinks I'm saying something I'm not. My sister once told me something that has stuck with me for several years now. At the time, I had just gone back to work after the birth of my first child. I hated it with every bit of my being, and I fought it the entire journey. During that time, some friends of mine also had a baby girl. She had a very short life before she got sick and passed away. I was telling my sister how I was feeling guilty about being upset at having to leave my  baby every day to go to work because I should just be grateful I still have her. My sister told me, "just because someone else's situation is worse than your's doesn't mean your's isn't difficult." She agreed that I do need to be thankful for what God had given me but that it was also okay to hurt too.

When the wave of emotion hit tonight I quickly realized it wasn't actually guilt I was feeling. I had a baby in the NICU, and I hated it, and I cried almost daily. I left sad every night. I am a mommy, and those emotions are normal. God gave me an overwhelming love for my child. I don't need to feel guilty over that. What hit tonight was not guilt. It was remorse. While our experience was not anywhere near as extreme as what this family is facing tonight, it was still difficult. I'm thankful for that, but I'm not going to apologize for the sadness I felt during that time. I have no guilt. I do have remorse.

See, this family is giving God praise and glory. They are pointing people to Him even in the midst of their sorrow. They are hurting and still worshiping God. They are thanking Him for healing their girl even though it doesn't look the way they would have chosen. Why my remorse? In the middle of my situation that was no where near as bad, I became angry. I questioned God's ways. I complained. I became a little bitter. I had done everything possible to keep my baby from coming early. He came anyway. I begged God not to make us do the NICU thing again - for the third time. We did it anyway.  I begged God to let it be a shorter stay than we had with the girls. It was tied for the longest. Everything I prayed was answered opposite of what I asked. So while I hung Bible verses all over his bed and asked for the prayer support of friends and family, I stopped praying. I didn't know how to pray and I was mad.

One day, in the quiet of the car, as Chase and I were making the 45 minute drive to the hospital, I began pouring my heart out to Chase. I began telling him of my hurt and anger. He listened quietly while I talked and talked. He didn't try to fix it. He just listened. Looking back, I think he was praying for wisdom on how to guide this woman whose hormones were very much imbalanced!!! :-) Well, God did guide him. He began slowly, taking his time, letting his words sink in. Whether this was intentional or not, it calmed my heart. He reminded me that it is okay to be upset. It is okay to be mad. God can handle my anger and my questions. He can handle my fear and my uncertainty. What is not okay is my bitterness. That is when my anger becomes sinful. God knows what He is doing. God has a plan. We may never see that plan. We may never know who came to know Him or grew closer to Him, but we should not be bitter over His plan. Chase then reminded me of the Bible verses covering our son's crib. He pointed out that we don't know who all is reading those verses. He reminded me that if we needed to have our son in the NICU at this exact point in time when someone else had their child in the NICU just so that other person would see the verses and come to know God, then it is all worth it. EVEN IF I never see that person come to know God. EVEN IF I never see the end result of His plan. EVEN IF I never know the good that happened as a result. EVEN IF I never understand "why", I still have no reason to be bitter. God sees all. God knows all. God's plan is perfect . . . EVEN IF.

As Chase's words sank into my emotionally exhausted heart, my tears changed from bitterness to sadness. Right there in the car, in the quietness of my mind, as we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I repented of my bitterness. I allowed God to do a work in my heart, making me trusting again. He then blessed us by allowing us to get good news that day about how CJ was doing. It was still difficult to leave that evening and head home without my son, but my heart was not as heavy. God had removed my bitterness and replaced it with a  love for the parents of CJ's "neighbors" and for his nurses/doctors/etc. His love, for those people I'd never see again after a few more days, filled my heart. it was such a free feeling after so many days of bitterness.

As I walked from the NICU and headed to the elevators that night, I found myself praying once again. For my son to keep fighting his battle and to be able to come home soon, but also for everyone who would enter that room, that they would learn to know this God who can empty our hearts of all the heavy baggage we are carrying and replace it with a love for Him and others that weighs nothing!!!

"Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."" Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

CJ Rampy

Hello Blogger World!!! It's been a long time. Too long. Actually, I've been back quite a few times in the last few months. I've started several posts. However, because I have a 3 year old, a 2 year old, a 1 year old, and a 1 month old, interruptions are inevitable. One of them would need something the minute I got a good thought going. Before I finished meeting their need another one would need something. And so the story goes until all four of them have needed something, the phone rang, daddy came home from work, and dinner had to be cooked. By the time I again found time to work on the post, the thought was gone!! Such is the life of a mother . . . and I wouldn't change it for ANYTHING!!!! Okay, I'd give a few hours of it to get the house cleaned, take a bath, and get a long nap :-) but the life of a mother????? I'd rather have this than anything. One of these days I'll go back and finish the other posts I've started. Until then I'm gonna try to get through this one with my husband on his way home from work, my 1 month old sleeping soundly in his playpen beside me, my 1 year old walking around the living room crying, my 2 year old playing a guitar, and my 3 year old running around dancing and singing. If things seem to ramble or don't make sense . . . well, you'll know why!!

The life of a mother . . . I said I wouldn't trade it for anything. Well, God has taken me up on that and extended the years of motherhood for me! On March 1, 2013 we welcomed another little blessing into our family. At 4.5 weeks early, Mr. CJ Rampy was born at 3:13 PM weighing only 5 lbs, 7 oz. He is, by far, our smallest baby yet. However, at 18.5 inches, he is also our longest.

With two previous preterm deliveries, we knew that there was almost a 100% chance this one would be preterm as well. So early on in the pregnancy we started Progesterone shots. They are not fun, but I was willing to do whatever it took to keep from doing the NICU thing AGAIN! The doctor told me that it is only effective in 90% of women. Well, apparently I'm in the other 10%!!!

The morning of 35 weeks I went to the doctor thinking my water had broken. One of her tests came back positive - that it had - the other two came back negative - it hadn't. However, I was dilated to a 2. She sent me to the hospital to be monitored. We were there for several hours with no change, but by that point it was getting late and we lived 45 minutes from the hospital. Afraid I would go into labor and not be able to make it back in time, they kept me over night to make sure no more changes were going to happen.

I forgot to mention that two of Chase's sisters had come in town for a week to help me out around the house so I wouldn't go into early labor. All I can say is that if they hadn't come, CJ probably would have come earlier than he did!

When they decided to keep me over night, my sister and grandmother got in the car and came up to help me out. They figured that if he was born that night I'd need help at home since I wouldn't be there for my girls. If he wasn't born that night, I'd need to be VERY careful at home to keep from going into labor. Well, it's a good thing they came! The next morning (Wednesday) the doctor sent me home on complete bed rest with instructions to stay on my left side as much as possible. That worked for a little while. But not long enough! By Thursday night I was having contractions 5 minutes apart. They were intense and lasting a LONG time. So we headed back to the hospital. I was dilated to a 3. Once again, they decided to keep me over night. It was well into Friday before I changed to a 4 and got my epidural. Once that happened, though, things moved quickly.

Unfortunately, he had fluid in his lungs so they took him to the NICU. I on;y held him for about 30 seconds - and Chase not at all - before they took him from us. It was terrible!!! It was after 9 that night before I made it up to see him. The girls were very confused. They saw him in the nursery window before he was taken to the NICU, but after that they didn't get to see him again until he came home. His lungs cleared up almost from day 1, but he didn't want to eat. After 10 very long days though, he came home!!!!

He has been such a great addition to our family. He sleeps ALL the time - already 8-10 hours at night. He sleeps through all of his sisters' noises. He sleeps through the vacuum cleaner and all the other noises that happen around here. He wakes up to eat and then immediately goes back to sleep. He still doesn't eat much, but hey, he's still gaining weight and he's saving me money on formula!!!! I'll take that! Here are some pics of our new guy . . .

 Brand New Baby Boy

 Oxygen and Feeding Tube

 Holding my boy for the first time

 First of Many Father-Son Moments

 Surrounded by Bible Verses Promising God's Help in Fighting this Battle!!

 Meeting Elizabeth and Jennifer

 Meeting Samantha

 Safe at Home in Daddy's Arms

 Supporting His Rangers

 One Month Old

 One Day He'll Fit into Mommy's Hat!

Sweet Baby Boy